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Problematic Parents - to address directly or not.(18 Posts)
I think this might be long and a bit of a stream of consciousness, so please bear with me.
I have a difficult relationship with my parents, more my mother than my father but as he is weak and enables her terrible behaviour I am finding it unnecessary to separate the relationships at the moment. My mother seems to be unable to parent adults, or rather be a parent to adult children and seems to want to have the same control and "respect" that she commanded of us as children and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to cope with. I've done a lot of examining our relationship and the damage it has done me in therapy but I'm now getting cross and that's not really helping me.
I'm suffering quite a lot with my mental health at the moment in that I'm in a treatment programme for my eating disorder (I've had it since my teens and whilst its been levelled as an accusation to me for years I've never had any support from my FOO) and have been really quite ill, in fact in March I was within a hairs breadth of being hospitalised. During this time I kept my parents abreast of what was going on and they kept minimising me being ill and telling me that it wouldn't come to me being hospitalised (making me feel like I was a drama queen, and I was fucking terrified). My mother in particular refused to say the word psychiatrist - she'd call him a trick cyclist which I found both bizarre and demeaning and she persisted even long after I asked her to stop. I sent a long email around Easter explaining how ill I was and got a two line response of nothing and no change in behaviour.
Fast forward to now and I am for the most part doing better, but still have some very bleak moods. When I get in those moods I can't do anything so recently cancelled staying the night with my parents (I was happy to still go to see them but wanted to be able to come home to where I feel safe) to which they said not to bother coming. They're now slagging me off for lying to them because I went to church the following day - I hadn't lied at all, I'd been completely honest about how I was doing and feel more than a little aggrieved that their response is to accuse me of not telling the truth when it would have been so much easier to cry off with a headache rather than say that I was finding it impossible to get dressed.
That's just one example - there is a lot of sniping behind my back that is being reported back to me, breaking of confidences and also general undermining of me. It has always been this way and I am beginning to realise that I can't change their behaviour, only my response/reaction. So how do I react? Do I address it with them and tell them I'm pissed off with them because I am sick of telling the truth and sharing really hard stuff with them for them to either backstab me or break my confidence? Or do I just brush it under the carpet?
It feels like we're playing, all of us, at pretending there is a reasonable relationship - I've even invited them for sodding Christmas - when really all that is happening is I am being undermined and thus feel paranoid. It has really affected my relationship with DH in the past, and I've just realised tonight that I always think he sees the worst in me because that's how I was parented.
Gosh this is long - so in short do I address it and probably cause some real fallout because there is no way this will be accepted (family mythology - Sweary is an awful human, mother is wonderful). Or do I find a way to swallow it and let it go? Or is there a middle ground?
I think you need to prioritise your own well-being and recovery, respect your own needs and wishes and step back from this horribly toxic family situation. It's a brilliant thing to tackle your own demons. Your mother isn't seeking help and doesn't want to change. Please step back from contact with her. Good luck x
Anger is good!
You have a LOT to be angry about! That anger HAS to come out. Please, please don't for one minute consider stuffing it down again - that would be the very worst thing for you.
Ime of toxic parents there were years of wrangling and rows. Didn't get anywhere, mind, but I got to clarify things in my own head. If you argue/discuss with the hope of a resolution then that's going to be very frustrating and painful - but part of the process of getting free does involve these painful conversations ime. Hope I'm making sense there...
They basically don't have your back - and very probably never will. This has EVERYTHING to do with how disordered they are and has ZERO to do with you and your worth. All very well to say - but it hurts. No getting around that. It takes a lot of getting used to.
Work on this in therapy. Ie the grief of having crap parents. And it isa grieving process that takes time.
Read Toxic Parents. Other books and info and support around too.
A friend wouldn't treat you like that, a person who does treat you like this is no friend.
They have and will sabotage your mental and physical health because... well let their "Trick Cyclist" work that out.
You must mentally at least prevent their attacks on you. Don't engage, don't share and start to play 'Toxic Mum Bingo'.
You must start to live your life on their terms and stop living trying to please them (it has already led you to years of ED). Easy to say I know, but you must walk away from people who are as damaging to your health as smoking.
Learn to stop people pleasing. The sooner you become distant, unavailable and only allow selective contact on your terms, the better your mental health and physical health will be. Toxic people leave a trail of toxicity behind them that pollutes the very air you breathe. Be mindful. Be wary.
You are the most important person in your life.
They aren't going to change and so I don't think it is worth the hope that they might, or the mental exhaustion and energy trying to make it happen.
I've accepted that they're not going to change, and that I'm the one who needs to do the changing, but I don't know how. Right now I want to tell them that I know what they're doing and that the outcome is going to be a much reduced relationship because frankly I've had enough, but I don't know whether that's the right thing to do for me. I loathe conflict (and yet always seem to end up in positions of it) and can't get the line between assertive and aggressive right, especially not with my parents.
The flip side is that if I just slink off then I won't have got to say my piece and I worry that I will then be pissed off with myself over it. I can't just pretend everything is OK anymore though. It's just not an option. And I'm not sodding having them play happy families anymore, which will include rescinding the invitation to Christmas. That'll be fun...
You know yourself well. You know you don't want conflict, so avoid it. Just minimise contact. You don't want to spend time at Christmas but are dreading the fall out. Not a problem- manage it. Say you'd be delighted to come for lunch. Book a hotel for the night afterwards if it's too far to drive. You might want to tell them you know what they're doing, but they won't admit it or change or apologise, you know that, so don't set yourself up for it. You can accept them for who they are without being a passive walkover. Contact them less and less.
Go NC and stop needing them to parent you. Break the ties binding you to them. You're married yet sound like a needy adolescent. Sorry to be harsh but maybe you have issues with being an adult child. Why on earth are you confiding in these people?
Up to you whether you choose to say your piece to them or not. If you want to do it for your own good, do it. But as springy wisely says upthread, if you say your piece in the hopes of getting through to them, you will be very frustrated and disappointed: they will NEVER acknowledge your feelings or their responsibility. If they could do that, they wouldn't be toxic parents.
You get to acknowledge your own feelings, and the things which are and are not your responsibility. Your therapist can help you with that as well: s/he is there to validate your experience.
Your parents won't, though. So have it out with them if you think it will serve YOU to get it off your chest. Try to avoid it, though, if you're still hoping for them to listen to you.
You are desperate for their love and affection and for them to understand you.
Part of the process you have embarked on is you have to understand they will NEVER be there fore you, NEVER support you, and NEVER bother even trying to understand you because they are out for themselves, every single time.
Nothing they do is your fault - they are inherently dreadful people who happen to have had kids. If you had different parents you would have experienced love, sadly, you haven't. It will affect every part of your life until you accept their truly awful and irredeemable selfishness.
Slowly you must withdraw, stop talking to them, and stop expecting anything.
You cannot reason with unreasonable people, all they will do, as they have so far, is suck all the joy and happiness out of your life.
Also I add that I have watched my dad have the life sucked out of him by toxic parents and my brother go through the same thing with an abusive wife.
Step outside yourself and think would you want your kids to feel like this? Would you ever dream of doing to your own kids what your parents did to you?
Your parents won't, though. So have it out with them if you think it will serve YOU to get it off your chest. Try to avoid it, though, if you're still hoping for them to listen to you
This is what I'm trying to work out. I know they won't change or listen and I accept that. I'm trying to work out whether it'll make me feel better to say my piece or not. I don't know whether I'll beat myself up over the confllict/disappointment of it, and I'm trying to work out what to do for the best. I completely agree that I won't get through to them but may benefit from standing up for myself to them.
You are desperate for their love and affection and for them to understand you
Kind of. I think I am desperate for them to see me as I am, and make their opinions of me based on that rather than on their perceived image of me. My mother has argued with me about my character (her telling me I'm enormously confident when I'm really not) and has ended up telling me "let's agree to disagree" when I wouldn't accept her definition of me! I think I could cope with the dismissal and dislike if it were based on who I am rather than this family myth.
Go NC and stop needing them to parent you. Break the ties binding you to them. You're married yet sound like a needy adolescent. Sorry to be harsh but maybe you have issues with being an adult child. Why on earth are you confiding in these people
Yes this is harsh, and unnecessarily so in my opinion. It's not that simple to go NC as there are extended family repercussions and I have to work out what is best. No contact seems to be a magic answer that isn't nearly as easy in practice as it is when handed out as advice. I think calling me a needy adolescent when I say I'm struggling with my mental health is borderline cruel, but there we go. I've spent 37 years being put down by these people and am only beginning to understand it so yes, maybe I have issues (I have anorexia so there's no fucking maybe about it) but I'm working hard on them. Telling me what you perceive as wrong with me kind of undermines your advice. I don't necessarily confide in them, I tell them the truth when I can't make occasions/when they ask how I am. I don't then expect for that to be paraded by them to all and sundry and used as a way to put me down. I don't think that's too much to expect.
You know, in a way I think there's no wrong decision in how you approach your parents: you are learning. You are finding your feet, and, as this is all new to you, you are currently swaying between avoidance and wanting to be aggressive, in your search for the right balance of assertiveness.
There will be a few wrong steps on the way. Doesn't matter: that's how you'll eventually get it right.
So have it out with them, don't have it out with them, rescind the Christmas invite, or have them over and re-live the reasons why you never want to do that again... any of these choices will teach you something. So you don't need to over-think it, just take some steps and see how those work out for you.
Agee with ricecrispies
Also this struck me I don't then expect for that to be paraded by them to all and sundry and used as a way to put me down. I don't think that's too much to expect.
You have years or decades of experience that actually it is too much to ask in your family, so if you could see them as a dead horse you might stop flogging it.
Sort of like the family equivalent of "When a man tells you what he is like, believe him"
Fartic you're totally right. I have certainly learned these last months to not tell them things I want kept confidential. It's just this last weekend's comments were twisting what I had said and using the truth against me. I think minimal contact and never explain anything are going to be the way forward. I'm sure lots of things will still be said behind my back but at least it won't be using my illness against me. Gosh that sounds melodramatic, but it makes sense to me.
Who said that about needy adolescent?? Bloody cruel and shaming imo.
Some of us have been seriously fucked up by our parents. To the point some fundamental things plain don't work, it takes a lot of work to get them to work. So less of the shaming please.
I agree you can do what you like with your parents. Have a strop if you like, be 'unreasonable', spiteful, whatever lol. What difference does it make - whatever you do isn't good enough anyway. Perhaps behaving badly could shake off our need for approval.
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